Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

So, I'm gearing up for my scheduled (as opposed to ninja surprise) trip to Delaware to visit my sister and brother, and so planning time with old friends like Moam.

This morning, I called Moam, and we were laughing at some old jokes when her 5-year-old-daughter -- who for some reason can't stand it when her mom gets animated, laughs or sings -- started yelling, "Stop it!"

Of course, that just led to a more rowdy round of us singing our signature Paul Simon song, "All along, along, there were incidents and accidents, there were hints and allegations ..." (in our version, "bone digger, bone digger" becomes "moamdigger, moamdigger").

At which point, as reported by Moam, Roo turned off her "magic buttons" (hearing aids) and covered her ears. Like she does when it's thundering and she doesn't want to hear it.

We were duly put "in our place."

Also to Roo's dismay, her mother shared with me a conversation the two had had recently that went like this: (Keep in mind we both call each other Moam, kind of the way that Shaken Mama and I refer to each as Frog.)

Roo: "Is Moam a mommy?"
Moam: "No."
Roo: "Is she a grandma?"
Moam: "No."
Roo: "What IS she, then?"

Meanwhile, Roo was dragging through the house a stuffed cat I had sent her when she was in the hospital, using a jumprope as a leash that she had tied around his neck. The cat is named Herman as a nod to Moam's insistence on calling my family's (female) cat "Herman" when we were kids, a habit that annoyed me no end.

Herman arrived with a collar, a personalized tag and a book I created about Herman, a cat in San Francisco who insisted on visiting Roo in the hospital 3,000 miles away, and achieved this with the help of strangers and various modes of transport, including a big rig and taxi.

I love it that Roo still cares for Herman, and takes him to school for "pet day." I would be so honored for Herman to become the equivalent of Ted E. Bear, which I have slept with for over 30 years.

Hey, Roo! If you'll be his bodyguard, he can be your longlost pal ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home From Philly

A funny thing happened on the way home from Philly: I sat next to one of the 11 crew members of the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Morris "Dick" Jeppson had just turned 22 that June.

Tomorrow, he will be 85, the same age my dad would have turned last month. My dad also served in the Army Air Corps, a group that preceded the formation of the Air Force.

We were on a Southwest flight from Philly to Las Vegas, where he and his wife have retired, and they were sitting in the front row of the craft. That left one window seat, which I asked to have.

My first interaction with Dick was accidentally dripping water from my bottle onto his head as I attempted to shove my bags into the overhead compartment. I apologized profusely. He smiled his forgiveness and said, "It's nice and cool."

My second interaction, as I chatted with his lively wife, Molly, and propped my bare feet up on the carpeted wall in front of us was, "Nice pedicure."

(At that point, I didn't know who this affable gentleman was, which is a good thing, as I would have had to violate federal aviation regulations by pulling out my BlackBerry and texting everyone I know that one of the men who had dropped the first atomic bomb had complimented my toes! You can't make this stuff up.)

Molly flipped through a Vogue and told me about how she and Dick had been married previously, and after their divorces, each had married the other's spouse. Each couple having had three children, that made for interesting holiday get-togethers.

They enjoyed each other so much, and were so sweet toward each other, that I had to ask how long they had been married. Nearly 50 years, Molly said.

They had been at an air show in Reading, Molly told me. We started talking about checking luggage and all the new fees, and she mentioned that Dick had to pack a bunch of posters to sign. And I asked, what for?

Which is when I discovered I was sitting next to a living piece of history -- one of only two surviving crew members of the Enola Gay, the other being (I believe) navigator Theodore Van Kirk, who had been even younger than my plane mate. Pilot Paul Tibbets, after whose mother the plane was named, died Nov. 1, 2007. At the time of the mission, Tibbets was 30.

The first thing that flashed to mind was the book Hiroshima, by Paul Hersey, a fascinating but disturbing account of the destruction that I read in high school.

The second thing I remembered was that my father had always told me that, while many criticize the dropping of the atomic bomb, he knew that if it hadn't happened, Japan would have been the next stop for him and thousands of other soldiers. That mission, according to my dad, could have saved his life.

And I am selfishly thankful for that.

Politics be damned, I thanked Dick for his service and told him about my dad. And later, dagnabbit, I wished I'd gotten him to sign my toes so I could put them up for auction with all of the other Enola Gay memorabila.

Just sayin.

But most of all, I really wished my dad were still alive. He would have loved that story.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

In the David Mamet movie Oleanna, William H. Macy -- upon being surprised by a party for his birthday -- delivers a line to the effect that a surprise is an act of aggression. Shaken Mama was gratified to hear that when I told her, given the trauma I served up for her 24th birthday in the form of a surprise party that left her cowering in a squat in the corner, speechless and nearly wetting her skirt.

It was a very hot August night in Boston, and all of our friends in the Emerson College graduate writing program had been waiting in my tiny, un-airconditioned studio apartment for several hours for us to return from our yummy Ethiopian dinner. Apparently, there had been several false alarms, upon which dozens of party-goers had rushed to hide in the bathroom, a la clowns in a Volkswagen. Did I mention it was hot? Well, there's a reason that aggressive crimes increase in the heat.

By the time we arrived at my place and I lured her inside saying that my cats had a present for her, the guests were ready with some hot, pent-up aggression.

SM walked in to hordes of people screaming "Surprise!" over and over in the same tone one would yell "Hang 'em high!" Flash bulbs erupted, and one of our dearest friends, whom we affectionately had nicknamed "Stinky Boy" or "Stinky" for short, given that he smelled like antiques, accosted SM waving a wooden spoon in her face.

(Don't worry, she got me back on what I believe was my 35th birthday, when she arrived at the restaurant with a specialty cake in the shape of a clock. A biological clock.)

In any case, I digress. This post is about my most recent foray into surprising the crap out of people, in particular my wonderful sister, D., whose birthday was June 6. I had decided to fly back to Delaware to surprise her, knowing she would be home that weekend because she was having work done on her house. But I wasn't sure of two things: 1) How would I get her to open her front door around midnight? and 2) Would she consider having me around for four days a desirable surprise?

My brother, always up for a clandestine adventure, fetched me from PHL, and we hurtled toward our target in his delightfully airconditioned Tahoe, accompanied by the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.

When we arrived at D.'s neighborhood, I called her on my cell phone, ostensibly to share a silly cat tale, for which she didn't have a lot of patience, as it was late, she was tired, in bed and would have to get up early to greet the contractors. I got out of the car and began walking toward her house.

Sensing my window was short, I asked her if she had received my birthday delivery from UPS. No, she said. It's really small, I persisted -- maybe it was put inside her screen door or in the mailbox? I just checked the Web site, I said, and it listed it as delivered. And I don't want it to be out all night -- it's something of Mom's.

OK, OK, she said. Let me put some pants on and go look.

My victory was shortlived, however, as she peered out her dining room window, caught a shadow of me and said, I think my neighbor's out there having a smoke or something. I don't want to open the door.


Just then, my brother walked up. Should I knock on the door? he mouthed. Yes! I nodded.

Now someone's knocking at my door! my sister said. Crap.

Why don't you answer it? I asked.

That's easy for you to say! she said, clearly peeved. You're in San Francisco. I'm all alone.

I'll wait on the phone and call the police, I said.

Crap, crap, crap, she said. All right. Stay on the phone.

Of course, I said, switching positions with my brother.

The outside light turned on, and I trained my video camera on her door, which opened slightly.

Surprise! I yelled, and began laughing maniacally. At which point, my intentions of preserving her reaction for posterity crumbled, as I forgot about the camera in my hand and started flailing my arms and stamping my feet, thus capturing the reaction of her mailbox (upside-down), the bottom left corner of the threshold and everything except my sister's face, in an uncanny resemblance of the Blair Witch footage.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Small State Hijinx

Just a short post from Just a Girl in Delaware:

What Delaware has all over San Francisco:

* My sister, the birthday girl
* My dad's old temperamental cat
* Subs
* Cheesesteaks
* Fireflies
* Hot weather and sunshine that can actually tan you
* No sales tax
* Parking places
* Bing's Bakery
* The Italian Festival
* OLD cemeteries
* Brick buildings
* Bennigans
* Grotto's Pizza
* The Deerpark
* Dunkin Donuts
* Long, loud freight trains
* Some of my favorite friends

Speaking of ...

Yesterday, I met my old friend Moam (who is the coolest, she's a probation officer AND mother of 3) for lunch at Applebee's in Middletown and she brought her adorable daughter Roo, the one who nearly lost her life to neuroblastoma. (Pictures of Roo and Moam to come when I return to SF.) Whereupon Moam shared this exchange that made me laugh so loud I think I embarrassed her. (Sorry, I can't take me anywhere! At least I didn't snort iced tea out of my nose...)

Roo is 5 now, and lately she's been asking her mom questions about death, which -- given that she was so close to it two years ago -- were more poignant for Moam than the average mother.

As related by Moam, an exclusive Roo moment, brought to you by JAGID, a subsidiary of JAGISF:

"Mommy, where we go when we die?"
"We go to be with Jesus, honey."
"Oh. So, we go home?"
(At which point Moam is touched and impressed by Roo's precocious understanding of a spiritual "home.")
"Yes, honey, it's like going home, being with Jesus."
"NO, Mommy! I mean, when we're done dying, do we come back to our house?!"